|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - March 21, 2022|
On March 26th, Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna puts down his boxing gloves temporarily and once again assumes the role of boxing promoter. His Rising Star Promotions will stage a fight card at Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in the Adrian Phillips Theater. The show is filled with ring talent from Jersey and beyond, and this will be the first show in the famous building in three years.
LaManna has been toggling back and forth from boxer to promoter for several years now. As a boxer, he fought all the way to a world title shot, and as a promoter, he’s been a steady factor in Atlantic City, while also promoting shows in DC, other New Jersey locals, and even in Mexico. LaManna has been successful doing both jobs, and according to “Cornflake”, fight fans can expect plenty more from him in both roles.
“I’m 30 years old,” LaManna said. “I have 37 pro fights, but I’m going to go another three or four years or until I have 50 fights, whatever comes first. Then, when I’m done boxing, I want to make this (promotion) my bread and butter.”
Wearing his promoter’s hat, LaManna’s next step is Saturday’s (March 26th) Boardwalk Hall show. The main event pits Greg Outlaw against Jonathan Montrel in an eight-round junior welterweight bout for the NABA Gold championship, a regional title sponsored by the WBA which gives the winner a boost in the rankings.
“The show is bomb, it’s crazy,” LaManna said. “The card is stacked, from top to bottom. Greg Outlaw (9-1, 4 KOs) is from Bowie, MD. I give him credit for fighting an undefeated guy, Jonathan Montrel from New Orleans. He’s 12-0. I don’t want to say “crossroads” because they’re both young. They have ten or twelve fights, but this really feels like a crossroads.”
This fight, along with an undercard of ten additional bouts, takes place in the legendary building where more than 250 boxing events have happened. Many of the biggest fights in AC history played out there, and LaManna is happy to be part of Boardwalk Hall’s story.
“It is very special because of the obvious, the history,” LaManna said about promoting at Boardwalk Hall. “We’ve got all the icons that fought there. “(But also) I fought on an Erislandy Lara undercard in my fourth fight. He fought Paul Williams and I fought on the undercard, in the same room we’re doing this card, the Adrian Phillips (Theater). So it means a lot. It just shows growth. It’s really, really cool.”
LaManna looks to make a statement with the upcoming show.
“I want to come out with a bang,” he said. “I want to put my foot on the ground, (and say) Rising Star Promotions is back in Atlantic City. I’m not saying we’re taking over. I don’t want to take over nothing. I love boxing, and I especially love boxing club shows. I just want to be giving these young fighters an opportunity – just like I had coming up. I want to give fighters opportunities on big platforms, with big fights, on big nights. That’s just my motto. So, it means a whole lot to me.”
Despite his success as a promoter, it’s hard not to think about Cornflake as a fighter first. As a professional boxer, he’s made twenty starts in AC. He’s fought on national TV, and waged excellent battles against fighters like Dusty Hernandez Harrison, Jamaal Davis, Ayi Bruce, Gabriel Bracero, and Matthew Strode. He stumbled a few times along the way, but still fought his way to a WBA middleweight world title fight against Erislandy Lara, in Carson, CA. However, instead of it being a day of celebration for LaManna, Lara kayoed him in the first round, and it turned out to be the worst day of Cornflake’s career.
“What happened, happened.” LaManna said. “But it really just killed me. It really did. So I took some time off. I spent a lot of time with the family, figured some stuff out.”
The tough loss on the biggest platform of his career was a disaster and the result took its toll on Cornflake. He became dejected, began putting on weight, and felt lost.
“After Lara, I really got over a deep, deep, huge depression,” he said. “I finally made to where every fighter dreams of, fighting a world renowned fighter. Listen, Erislandy Lara has always been one of the best fighters in my era. Someone I’ve always looked up to, and someone you feel is at championship status. What happened, happened. I kind of just fell off. I blew up.”
After losing to Lara, many thought his career would end right then and there, but fighters usually find a way to keep going.
“Boxing is all I know,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know, but I actually fought after the Lara fight. I fought in Mexico. I just had to get it (the loss to Lara) out of my head. I didn’t post it. I didn’t say nothing or promote it. Nothing. So, like a month after I got off suspension (from the knockout), I fought in Mexico and got a second round knockout against a guy who was like 17-5. ”
The hush-hush fight was at light heavyweight and was arranged to help get the bitter taste of defeat out of Cornflake’s mouth. But it didn’t work.
“I was at 172 (pounds), LaManna said of his weight for the fight. “I tried to get as low as possible. He was like 176. But after that fight is when I blew up (in weight). I stopped him, but it just put a win on my record. It did nothing for me. Then I went through what I went through. Now, I’m coming back.”
LaManna the fighter, 31-5-1, 13 KOs, is still hungry for more.
“I feel like this is where I belong,” he said. “I feel like I have a couple more big fights left in me. The good thing is – yes, I’ve been in some good fights in my career – but I’ve never really gotten my ass whooped, other than probably Jorge Cota. I feel like I’m still sharp and fresh.”
He plans to fight this summer, but first has a show or two to promote, as well as an important personal milestone planned.
“After this one (March 26th), we already have tentative dates of May 14th, in Newark (with Manny Rodriguez in a hometown main event), then we have May 28th in Washington, DC, in our “Beltway Battle Series”. Then I’m off in June because I’m getting married.”
Soon after his wedding, Cornflake heads back to training camp.
“I’ll start training in July and then I return (to the ring) in August, which will be in Atlantic City (on a Rising Star show),” he said. “Then the ball will just keep rolling.”
The experience of fighting on the championship level, made an impression on LaManna and motivates him to climb back to that stage.
“It was just everything that I had imagined,” LaManna said. “I was in a world championship training camp. We had sparring partners. We had dieticians, strength and conditioning. I was able to stay home, at the house I grew up in. My trainers got put up nice. Everything was just world class. It was world level shit. It was just great. So, does it motivate me? Yes. I miss that feeling when people actually gave a fuck about me. (Laughs) Yeah, I do miss that. And it does motivate me to get back there. I knew I belonged there the first time. I really felt that in my heart. I really truly feel when I get there again, I will prove I belong there.”
After his return to the ring, LaManna plans to promote another Newark, NJ show with Manny Rodriguez again in the main event. But everything begins at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night.
“We want to come out with a bang,” he said about the show. “I haven’t promoted a show in New Jersey since July 21st of 2019. First Covid hit, and then I went on to my fights with PBC and Lara. So now we’re coming back. Coming back strong, and with a bang.”
The popular fighter and promoter tries to keep moving forward and let the past go. However, he doesn’t feel he can do it alone.
“I would ask that people don’t give up on me,” he said. “With regard to Rising Star Promotions and me as a fighter, we’ll be on top in due time. Keep supporting me and be on the lookout.”